West Belfast man Christopher O'Neill cleared of murdering his baby daughter Caragh Walsh
Tammie-Louise: Three years ago I lost my baby daughter and she is not coming back
West Belfast man Christopher O'Neill has been cleared of the murder of his three-month old baby daughter Caragh Walsh.
Mr O'Neill, from Whiterock Road, had denied killing the three-month-old baby in February 2014.
It had taken the Craigavon Crown Court jury of eleven sitting in Armagh, just over four and a half hours since Thursday to acquit the 26-year-old by a majority of at least ten to one.
After the 'not guilty' verdict was read out, his solicitor Paul Sweeney said Mr O'Neill and his family did not wish to say anything, but that "it has been a very difficult case, and one in which there have been no winners".
Following the verdict Caragh's mother Tammie-Louise said: "We are disappointed with today's decision. Three years ago I lost my baby daughter and she is not coming back. We would like to thank the paramedics, doctors and nurses who tried to save Caragh ’s life.
"We would also like to thank the police and prosecution team, as well as the court staff. We have to live with the loss of Caragh as a family for the rest of our lives. Caragh will always be remembered with love and affection and will be in our thoughts and hearts forever."
The family requested that their privacy is respected.
The detective who led the investigation, Detective Chief Inspector Justyn Galloway, said: "The jury has made its decision. We will continue to support the family in any way we can and will, together with the PPS, consider the verdict that was delivered today. Our thoughts are very much with baby Caragh and her family at this sad time."
Mr O'Neill had always rejected any suggestion he would have done anything to harm the three-month-old baby, who was rushed from her Glasvey home in Twinbrook to hospital where she died two days later on February 7, 2014.
The jury of 10 men and a woman accepted his claims that far from attacking her in a rage, he had done all he could to save the toddler he doted on, after she had awoke with a "painful cry" and was "barely breathing".
By the same measure they have rejected the prosecution case that although a caring dad, Mr O'Neill had finally found it all too much and reaching his limit, had simply snapped and having lost control, assaulted and abused the youngster in a momentary rage.
From the outset Mr O'Neill maintained that he would "never" have done anything to harm her, and said that from the moment she was born in October 2013: "I was happy...proud...I loved her to bits, I didn't want to leave her, I just wanted to be with her all of the time".
First in police interviews, and again during his four week trial, Mr O'Neill told how in the month and a half of paternity leave, and after the family moved into their own flat in Twinbrook, he "did most of the looking after of baby Caragh", and later would rush home from work to be with her.
On the "fateful day...that terrible day" he described how, when watching a DVD, baby Caragh suddenly awoke in her bouncer, her arms shooting out in front of her.
He tried to revive her even giving her mouth to mouth but to no avail.
Initially he told the court that he "was scared...because I knew something was wrong" thinking, "that she was dying", and that "I just wanted her not to die. I just wanted to help her".
Although he accepted that at one stage he lifted her up in front of him and "shook her" he did not know how many times he did so.
"I felt helpless and scared...completely scared of Caragh dying...I knew something wrong was happening".
When it was suggested that he'd lost it, Mr O'Neill told the jury: "I would never hurt my daughter...that's completely wrong. I was trying to help her".
And that he only shook her, "because I thought she was dying and to this day I have had to live with the fact that I didn't help her enough".
Mr O'Neill also told the jury that not a day goes by that he does not think of her.
Belfast Telegraph Digital